Saturday, May 23, 2009

The eyes have it

When I dropped into Toronto Animal Services yesterday at noon, it was supposed to be just to say hello to Big George to see how he was doing but as I walked by the white board with the list of all the dogs that needed walking, I noticed that only half of them had been attended to.

The staff take out all the dogs in the morning for a quick washroom break but that's not a real walk, not in my book anymore. Five minutes doesn't cut it and the dogs really deserve and need the time they get with the volunteers walking them. Yesterday, though, the volunteer who was supposed to be there hadn't arrived yet.

I'm not at all putting any blame on the volunteer. After all who knows what might have happened. Sickness. Car broken down. Who knows, but regardless, the result was that half the dogs in the shelter had been stuck in their kennels all morning.

So, instead of spending time with George, I started taking out dogs. I do this quite often, fill in when someone's away or there's too many dogs, and it's never a big deal but yesterday, walking by all the dogs in their kennels who hadn't been out yet, I felt kind of depressed by it all. I think it may have been because one of the first dogs I passed was Spencer, a Doberman who reminded me of my own Rocky. Spencer was there by the front of his kennel, not making a peep but looking like he was trying very hard to be noticed with his perfectly well behaved sit. Something about his silence got to me. He was being a very good dog, not barking, not making a fuss, looking me in the eyes, doing all the right things so that I would choose him to take out.

And yet I did not.

And then I passed by Dalton ...

... and Sandy ...

... and Lady ...

... and Paddy ...

... and I get to the end of the kennel and take out two dogs who get along really well with each other to walk them at the same time - more efficient that way. And then I have to walk by all these other dogs again who are now thoroughly disappointed.

The photos I take for the adoption website all show the dogs outside, generally happy and alert and pretty full of life but in reality, they spend almost all their time here in their kennels waiting to be noticed, for that glance from a person, a touch, some attention, a few moments when they can feel wanted, included. Sure, it's not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, them missing out on a walk or missing out on some playtime, but denying them any of these few, small enough pleasures they get during their sometimes long stay at TAS just seems wrong.

It all comes down to this. TAS needs more volunteers. They've got a full schedule of volunteers and there is pretty well a volunteer coming in every open hour of every day but that's in the ideal case with no one being sick or late or whatever. And also, sometimes, there are more dogs than one volunteer can handle in the time they're there. So, I'm trying to talk TAS into doubling up their volunteer numbers or even tripling. This way, if someone can't make it, there'll hopefully still be at least one or two other people showing up.

Also, TAS South is getting more dogs now. The rescue work has really increased and that means more dogs to walk so more volunteers only makes sense. All the dogs need more people time.

So, for your consideration: If you've ever felt like getting hands-on involved and have thought about doing some volunteering, this would be a great time to do it. Come visit TAS South, check the place out, fill out a volunteer application form. They'll explain the volunteering process to you - sometimes they make a big deal of it but it's all pretty informal once you get started. Afterward, it's sometimes a little frustrating waiting for the bureaucracy to get to responding to the volunteer requests but I've been told that someone is going through all the applications right now. And even if you apply and don't make it this time, which would be nonsensical, TAS will have your name on file for the next round.

Hope to see you round there sometime.

Toronto Animal Services South, 7 days/week, 10:30 am - 6:30 pm
140 Princes' Blvd. (Horse Palace, Exhibition Place)

This is the south shelter number: 416 338 6668. If you call this number and get a machine, just hang up and try again later otherwise you might end up waiting on hold for a week or so.

This is the main TAS number if you're interested in one of the other shelters (but I don't know what they're like at all with respect to volunteers): 416 338 7297


Anonymous said...

Volunteering changed my life, best thing I ever did. If you are nervous because you think its sad, and you can't handle it, take it from me, the joys far outway the negatives. Seeing your favorite shelter dog end up in a great home is the most amazing thing. So come on people lets get out their and show a dog or cat some love. Every little bit helps even if its just an hour a week.



House of the Discarded said...

Fred, your sentence: "And even if you apply and don't make it this time, which would be nonsensical, TAS will have your name on file for the next round..."

Is exactly the reason why I haven't volunteered to walk dogs over there. I can't imagine filling out an application form to VOLUNTEER and getting rejected for whatever reason.

A friend of mine filled out an application over there to be a dog walker and she was rejected because she could only commit to one afternoon per week. Un-real.

If there's somebody that acts like they want me there, I might be game to do it.

I don't blame you if you don't want to post this comment on your blog. But I wanted you to know what was going on.


Fred said...

House of the Discarded, when I first applied there, it took them 6 months to call me back which I thought was ridiculous.

I don't know why your friend was rejected for only being able to commit to one afternoon a week because most people are only in for an hour or two once a week. Maybe it was because s/he had picked a time that was already filled? - which is what I was getting at when I said that TAS should allow doubling up or tripling up on volunteers. It just doesn't make sense that there's such a tight scheduling protocol for volunteers. It's not like anyone's going to get pissed at getting more help.

So, I know what you mean about the volunteering situation not being optimally set-up. The only thing is that - and I know this is going to sound trite - we're doing it for the dogs (and cats and bunnies and birds) and if that means putting up with some bureaucracy, I think it's still a worthwhile effort.

Hell, even if TAS didn't want me going in, I'd still try to go in to help out the dogs.

martha said...

Can't do it-would love to- but can't.
I would cry myself to sleep every night, I just can't fix the world.
and I have tried to- then it's called "burnout"
Bless you -you are a far stronger person than I.

I do foster for (future) guide dogs.
It's at least a year with one pup-cry at the end- then foster again!

illona said...

hey Fred, thanks for this post. if i was in Toronto, i'd be there in a heartbeat. i used to volunteer for the shelter here, but honestly, i felt very unappreciated and disconnected. i know, i know ... it's the dogs that matter, the dogs who appreciate.

i'm in the midst of a major home and studio move right now, but once i'm past that hump, i'm going to try again.

it's for the dogs. in fact, i've been wondering about joining something like Big Sisters and wonder if there might be a way to incorporate both. hmm ...